A bit of needle was introduced into the final and series-deciding ODI between Bangladesh and West Indies, to take place at the Sylhet International Stadium today, after West Indies skipper Rovman Powell said that Bangladesh had problems against pace.
“It is a fact. Bangladeshi don't like fast bowling,” Powell told reporters yesterday. His categorisation of his assessment as fact suggested that the skipper was looking to stir things up ahead of the series decider. “We are definitely looking to exploit it. Hopefully tomorrow [Friday] we can do that.”
Powell, leading the side in place of injured regular skipper Jason Holder, was perhaps referring to their fast bowler Oshane Thomas, who consistently bowled above 140 kilometres per hour in the first two matches of the series, which stands at 1-1 after West Indies won the second ODI by four wickets in Mirpur on Tuesday.
Thomas has been the highest wicket-taker for West Indies with one wicket in the first match and three scalps in the second.
Bangladesh skipper Mashrafe Bin Mortaza, when told about Powell's assessment, seemed bemused and disagreed.
“We have had their pace bowling covered in both matches. Yes, there were one or two early wickets. In the last match, they could not really unbalance Tamim [Iqbal] with pace, nor [Mahmudullah] Riyad. Initially there may be something. Shakib played comfortably and also played shots. I don't think it [pace] makes much of a difference,” Mashrafe said.
“Maybe in the past there was a time when these things affected us, but that time is gone. If you talk about extreme pace, then all batsmen around the world have trouble with that. But 140-143 [kmph], I think we have a lot of batsmen at this level [who are comfortable].”
When reminded that Thomas could be 'extreme' pace, Mashrafe's reply suggested that he did not quite see it that way.
“Both days he bowled at an economy rate of six, so if they think that he is their best bowler, then we have been pretty much at ease by picking six runs an over off him,” Mashrafe replied. Thomas conceded 34 runs in five overs in the first match and 54 from 10 in the second. “The guy bowling at 147 kph was taken for 16 in an over by Shakib. So it was not much of a problem -- we just lost wickets at crucial moments.”
Mashrafe could also have pointed out that Bangladesh's three pacers -- himself, Mustafizur Rahman and Rubel Hossain -- have outperformed their West Indian counterparts, taking 12 wickets to the nine shared by Kemar Roach, Keemo Paul, Thomas and skipper Powell.
The games on West Indies' tour so far have been played in excellent spirit and that is likely to continue today, but one can expect an extra yard of pace from Thomas as well as a more pumped-up Mashrafe in the last game of the year for both sides.